Members of the right-wing majority coalition in Israel’s Knesset, particularly Knesset members from Likud and the Jewish Home Party, have been filling the legislature’s docket with populist, anti-democratic bills.
Such bills will be front and center on the Knesset’s docket as it opens its Winter Session on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
Several of these proposed laws pose a dual threat, not only to Israel’s democracy but also to a possible peace agreement, to pro-peace and other progressive organizations, and to non-Israeli organizations that help fund them, such as Americans for Peace Now. Their introduction underscores the way in which the ongoing conflict with Palestinians corrodes Israeli democracy, as right-wing Knesset members attempt to silence progressive Israeli voices in the service of their right-wing, pro-settlement agenda.
The following is a list of the most egregious bills; it is by no means a full accounting of the assault on democracy and peace under way in the Knesset, which will take up these bills when it reconvenes in late October for its winter session. It also does not include problematic bills already passed into law, such as the 2016 NGO Law and the 2017 Entry Law.
- A bill to prevent the inclusion of Jerusalem in a future peace deal.This proposed amendment to the Knesset’s Basic Law stipulates that any future change pertaining to the borders of Jerusalem will require a super-majority of 80 Knesset members (instead of 61, under current law). If passed into law, this measure would be unmatched in the Israeli legal code. No other Israeli government executive decision requires a two-thirds majority. This legislation would tie the hands of future governments in negotiating peace and will grant a de facto veto to representatives of the Israeli public’s anti-peace minority. The bill passed an initial vote and will need to pass three additional readings to become law. The absurdity is that the law, if passed, will surely garner significantly fewer than the 80 votes it demands for a future decision on Jerusalem.
- A bill to outlaw Breaking the Silence. Breaking the Silence (Shovrim Shtika) is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and believe in the necessity of exposing the Israeli public to the actions IDF soldiers routinely take in the context of policing the Occupied Territories. The bill would outlaw Breaking the Silence by deeming it an “unlawful association,” a definition saved in Israeli law for terrorist organizations. The bill was submitted by MK Shuli Mualem of the Jewish Home in January, but has not (yet) advanced through the legislative process.
- A bill to deny any financial contributions by foreign governments to organizations that oppose the occupation. A draft of this bill does not yet exist, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told Israeli reporters on October 15th that it intends to soon submit a new version of the 2016 NGO Law, which posed conditions for NGO’s receiving financial contributions from foreign governments. According to Israeli press reports, Netanyahu’s new bill would completely prohibit such contributions. According to Israeli media reports, Netanyahu has tasked Cabinet member Yariv Levin with drafting the bill, and Levin intends to submit it soon to the Cabinet for approval, before it’s submitted to the Knesset for a vote.
- A bill to deny income tax exemption to organizations (“public institutions”) that “act against the State of Israel.” Currently, the law says that organizations serving a “public objective” such as in the fields of religion, education, health, or science, “related to the State of Israel” are entitled to an exemption. The proposed bill would condition the exemption so that “anti-Israel” entities would be ineligible for it. The significance of the bill is its labeling of organizations as “anti-Israel” if they “take action against the State of Israel internationally,” by calling for a boycott of the State of Israel or any of its citizens or accusing the State of committing war crimes. This bill, if it becomes a law, would define Israeli organizations that support boycotting West Bank settlements – such as Peace Now – as “acting against the State of Israel.”
- A bill to compel non-profit organizations that receive more than 50% of their funding from a foreign country to state that fact in any correspondence with the courts.The bill follows the NGO Law of July 2016, which targets progressive non-profits that are chiefly funded by European governments. Using the same funding condition (more than 50% funding from “foreign state entities”), this bill, like several others, seeks to further undermine progressive groups and is intended to stigmatize and delegitimize them as foreign agents.
- A bill to compel non-profit organizations that receive more than 50% of their funding from a foreign country to pay double the fee for any Freedom of Information request. This bill also seeks to stigmatize and delegitimize progressive non-profits and to burden them financially.
- A bill to deny advocacy organizations the right to petition the High Court of Justice. This bill, an amendment to Israel’s Judgment Law, would allow only individuals or entities that are directly impacted by the subject of a petition to petition the High Court of Justice. The objective of the bill is to block Israeli organizations that advocate for human rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza from petitioning the High Court on behalf of Palestinians. Palestinians are entitled to petition the High Court, but seldom do it without the help of an Israeli organization because of the bureaucratic, financial and logistical complexity of submitting such petitions. Currently, petitions to the High Court are a vital tool in the hands of Israel’s civil society to hold the State legally accountable in its practices in the Occupied Territories.
- A bill to compel the organizers of any public event to hoist the Israeli flag. The bill would punish those who fail to do so.
- A bill to deny certain organizations entry into public schools. This is another bill targeting the anti-occupation non-profit Breaking the Silence. In practice, however, it would authorize the Minister of Education to deny entry to any organization, if the Minister deems such an organization to be acting in violation of “the objectives of education” or acting “against the IDF.”
- A bill to punish universities if any of their employees call for boycotting the State of Israel. In such an instance, state funding to the university would be cut.
- A bill to punish a political party that calls for boycotting Israel or the settlements.The bill uses the same language as the 2011 law passed by the Knesset, which outlaws public calls to boycott the state or West Bank settlements. It would deny state funding, which all Israeli political parties currently receive, to parties that support boycotts.